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By Julian Nettlefold, Editor, BATTLESPACE

08 May 08. Progress in the long-running FRES Programme was made today by the announcement that the U.K. Ministry of Defence announced the provisional selection of PIRANHA 5 offered by General Dynamics (UK) Ltd as the preferred design for the FRES (Future Rapid Effect System) Utility Vehicle. PIRANHA 5 is the first vehicle to be selected in the FRES family of vehicles. (See: BATTLESPACE UPDATE Vol.10 ISSUE 17, 01 May 2008, FRES Requirement will gain a post-local election boost)

Baroness Ann Taylor, Minister for Defence Equipment and Support, said, “The FRES vehicle programme will be a major investment in the future of our Armed Forces. I am pleased to announce the provisional selection of PIRANHA 5 as the preferred design for the FRES Utility

Vehicle and I look forward to working with General Dynamics UK Ltd during the next stage of the FRES Utility Vehicle programme.

“FRES is a long term programme to be delivered in stages to meet the Army’s needs over the next thirty years. Today marks an important milestone.”

General Sir Richard Dannatt, Chief of the General Staff, said, “The provisional selection of PIRANHA 5 as the FRES Utility Vehicle design heralds the start of a new era for the Army in terms of capability. It maintains the progress of the FRES programme which is at the heart of the British Army’s equipment programme and is my highest priority after support to operations. This will form the backbone of the Army’s future armoured vehicle requirements.”

“Whilst our Protected Personnel Vehicles such as MASTIFF are a very successful addition to meet specific operational requirements in both Iraq and Afghanistan, it is the FRES medium weight capability which will allow the Army to conduct a considerably wider range of operations in an uncertain and changing world. I am therefore delighted that we are maintaining progress on this vital programme.”

This is an interesting statement and coincides with the statement during the Shrivenham Conference last week from the Army that FRES UV would be in Afghanistan if it was available. The speaker went on to say that Warrior may have to be deployed but this was an expensive option. Does this mean that the MoD is leaving the door open for the much rumoured UOR buy, which, as we said last week could be met easily by NEXTER with VBCI or a Piranha III vehicle? Certainly Piranha V could not support current operations in the short to medium term.

The Statement goes on to say that FRES is an incremental programme to replace parts of the Army’s Saxon, FV 430 and CVR(T) vehicle fleets and deliver a new medium weight capability. However, with continuing weight growth being experienced due to increased lethality and protection Requirements, the future of the Medium Fleet has been put in doubt by a number of pundits.

FRES will be delivered in stages: the Utility Vehicles will be introduced first and then the more complex Specialist Vehicles delivered in planned increments later on. It is intended that the total FRES capability will be delivered in five families of vehicles: Utility, Reconnaissance, Medium Armour, Manoeuvre Support and the Basic Capability Utility. FRES will be used widely to support the whole spectrum of military operations.

Dr Sandy Wilson, President and Managing Director, said: “We are delighted that PIRANHA V is the British Army’s choice for the FRES Utility Vehicle. With over 9,000 PIRANHAs already in service, the family’s pedigree speaks for itself. We have continued development work at our own initiative, and we will work closely with the Ministry of Defence to de-risk the programme. At the same time, we will be continuing our strong bids for the Utility Vehicle Integrator (UVI) role and for the follow on FRES Specialist Vehicles (SV).”

PIRANHA V will deliver an extremely reliable p

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